The Greatest Slaughters Ever Sold: Our Stories are Making Us Sick, Violent and a Planetary Pestilence
- My interest in Gandhi as the "better story" for the world began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the false war. Twenty years have passed. More wars, more falsehoods, and worst of all, the war within.
This is a prayer for stories to end.
Stories about blame games and routine regrets. About more guns and fewer guns. About tighter borders and open ones. About data and anecdotes. About the Left and the Right.
About the way they said that the screams of the parents sounded as they found out.
All you wretched little phones, computers, TV screens and perpetual devices of attention and distraction! They say, “don’t blame the messenger,” but I have to blame you anyway. Why did you have to bring these words, these pictures, these sorrows of strangers who will now no longer be strangers but walls upon which my rage, grief and helplessness will fall?
Why did this happen? Again, and again.
I just told you, dear reader, a story (assuming, of course, that you are reading this, that is). Otherwise, it’s a story I will end up telling only myself and my editor. It’s a story brewing in despair and also in hope, for like all writers, I can’t lose hope.
If one set of words brought heartbreak around the world, perhaps another one will help heal, help reveal, repair, do something good, even if in some tiny way.
I have to hope that we can somehow tell what “The Life of Pi” called the “better story.”
For a long time, as a student of stories and forces (or meaning and power, as cultural studies scholars called it), and also as a novelist and a teacher, the idea of the “better story” inspired me and informed me. In the Life of Pi, the young protagonist considers stories from Islam, Christianity and Hinduism before his adventure with (perhaps) a tiger on a lifeboat begins. Isn’t it wonderful, one thinks at the end, that there are so many different storytellers each claiming to have an authoritative one, but then there’s no one to stop us from choosing the “better one”? No surprise perhaps that my Gandhi-philia was at its peak around the time I read that novel. “I believed,” as they say. I believed in Ahimsa, Sathya, Hind Swaraj, all the rest. A better story was ours to build, together, in our time here.
My interest in Gandhi as the “better story” for the world began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the false war. Twenty years have passed. More wars, more falsehoods, and worst of all, the war within. This one never stops even for a rest. What will be the story then, of the time that will be our own, the one that perhaps we will reflect on one day and put parentheses around as say “this was it, our window into time, our cohort’s encounter with history.” Will we be known as “The Greatest Generation”? That one is taken. But shouldn’t every generation hope to be remembered that way?
My story, for better or for worse, is no longer in the Pi Patel mode of Hindu-Muslim-Christian Gandhian narratopias. It is pointless to pretend. There is no free market of stories in this world. That faith, that ship, it has sailed or sunk. We are stranded here with very bad stories. That is all it feels like to me, and my little arc through time-space-history. Propaganda! Propaganda! When will we be free?
In my 20s, I began my education with a class on propaganda. I believed we would soon be free. All of us. We were all going to go forth with our degrees to “change the world.” Violence, injustice, and oppression, would soon become things of the past. That was our innocence, as I suppose is the innocence of my students, and those of another generation in school and college now. But it’s that innocence, that threat to it, that makes me rethink my better story relativism.
Generation after Generation, Cohort after Cohort, Decade after Decade, School after School. Why?
What primitive superstition rules this society making people believe that sacrifices must be offered in blood, and the younger the better?
I see a problem, at the core, with this society’s, or maybe this world’s, story of itself. It’s a sick story, a dreary story, a dull, dead, deadening dud of one. It has no conception of infinities and times beyond our immediate todays, moments, gratifications. It instills in each of its children a sense of no reason for life or love beyond craving for the school bell to go home or notification on the phone to feel one’s existence validated by a Like or Retweet. John Gatto spelled it all out when he called it “The Psychopathic School.”
In just one century, just three or four generational cohorts put through the meat-grinder machinery of mass schooling, we have been torn from our natural senses and our natural notions of time. Conditioned? Categorized? Cannibalized? Whatever has been done to us, it is not good. We have no concept of what, or who, to live for anymore. That is the Prussian Factory School system’s Number One achievement. We are time amputees. And it’s only a matter of time before something profoundly, irrevocably, monstrously mad happens with that too.
We have spent millions of dollars on education against hate in terms of race, gender, class, caste, all the rest. We have barely understood that there is something amiss about the violent regularity of hate against children and elders, hatred across generations. In a normal society, with natural experiences and understandings of time, this should not exist. Our lives and stories should not be pitting us against elders as perpetual oppressors who must be destroyed and replaced by the young in periodic purges and uprisings. And as for the reciprocal attitudes of the spiritually marooned adults towards the future, that is no better. Children and childhoods as sites for great mass psycho-political experiments by Foundations and think-tanks without the slightest understanding that whole lives, futures, multigenerational consequences are at stake. Adults, ostensibly with the lessons of time in them, are failing to share the story of reality with the young. The young are failing to take the story of reality from the old.
Our polarization today isn’t just political or spatial, “blue state” or “red state.” Our polarization is in the stories we have of time, too.
It should not take violent ruptures to our “normalcy” to realize that even our “normal” has become horribly violent. For tens of thousands of years, hundreds of generations have lived with stories about what it means to be parents and children, teachers and pupils, protecting and protected, dependent and independent, elders and babies, in lines drawn from reality, from nature, from time.
Ahoratra (Day and Night)
“Prajapati was born with a life-span
Of a thousand years.
Just like one stands on shore of a river
And sees the opposite bank at a distance,
At birth, he saw the other end of his life.”
(Satapatha Brahmana, 11.1.6 translated by Koti Sreekrishna and Hari Ravikumar, Srishti: Songs of Creation from the Vedas)
Prajapati was born and immediately he saw what was on the other shore. Few of us can perceive that perhaps. But our lives, stories, cultures, traditions, festivals, all of these reminded us once that this is how it was.
Now, we are zombies and zombie-makers, cut off from one phase of our life to the next by the propaganda factories of school, work, entertainment, distraction. We go through 12 years packed into boxes with our own age group instead of wandering about with cousins and friends and neighbors of all ages. We find ourselves unable to comprehend what is out there, not in terms of space but our own future, our strengths and weaknesses that will come inevitably with time.
Some of us wake up each day not able to bear the thought of it instead of sensing even a glimpse that this day, this trouble too, will pass. There will be tomorrow and tomorrow, but it will not necessarily be bad. There will always be indications of life after us, children, babies, somehow all going on in spite of it all, in spite of the fears of global warming and catastrophe and economic collapse and worlds without us.
The Story that has trapped us is the Slaughterhouse story. It will not let us remember there was a time when we thought and lived in infinities. Instead, it drills into us from our chrono-segregated childhoods that this is the only way, juggling our faiths between apocalyptic terror and instant gratification abandon. A society that is prevented from seeing the other shore, imagining the possibility of looking back to big grateful farewells as we reach it, secure in the knowledge of loved ones who will say your names and offer you rice balls and mantras even after you are gone, is a lost one. It perceives as a searing sense of loss and anger about what it has been deprived of.
There is only so much people can take being lied about, lied to, and lied all around. The Story of our time is a lie about time. Until we remember what we have been made to forget until we reach out to ancestors and descendants we may not even know, until we measure ourselves again not by the thoughts in our head and promises in our phones by the majestic presences of the mountains and trees and skies and stars above us, we will remain lost.
Forget the drills. Forget the dumbed-down corporate diversity picnics and talks. Forget the divisions that we are told divide us and the solutions that are sold to supposedly heal us from them.
What we need to learn more than anything else is intergenerational empathy.
If some of us have stopped seeing even children as children…
We must find ourselves in nature’s story again. We must learn to live in nature’s time again.
Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanthihi. Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavanthu.
Vamsee Juluri is a Professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. His latest book is “The Firekeepers of Jwalapuram,” part 2 of a trilogy titled “The Kishkindha Chronicles,” … “because the world was a better place when the monkeys ran the world.”
It’s an interesting article that tells the truth about the fake life the so-called system is forcing us to live. It also reminded me about a few sayings about the masses by Gustave Le Bon: “The masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.”
I have to admit that Gatto and Gustave Le Bon are a few geniuses that had their feet planted firmly on the ground and who tried to wake the mindless sheep, slaves, zombies, robo-zombies from the trance.
Thanks for sharing this article! It’s a real eye-opener.